I stand for gender equality.
I was never really into women’s studies and I never called myself feminist. I felt annoyed by this topic, especially because we were talking about it too much and I didn’t seem to notice that there is a problem. It is how it is, right? Why should we question every natural human process? Society made feminism sound as a crazy movement of crazy women who basically look like an ugly man and their main goal is to end mankind … I mean, mankind is humanity, right? Correction … and their main goal is to fight against man and nature. This is how feminism and fight for women’s rights sounded to me.
I will come back to this perception of feminism.
The following year will be the year of my graduation. I study sociology and since I am ending my bachelor I had to think of a good topic for my thesis. Since I remember I wanted to do things differently, add a bit more, do it a unique way and I had the same goal for my thesis. Long story short, I really didn’t want to write about women rights because this is really not new problem and the topic had been discussed from every point of view. But never say never, and there I was, reflecting on my life as a woman. I think this was the first time I really start seeing the huge problem in gender equality. My thinking process went back to the primary school and to the teenage era, when the hormones start to kick in and boys and girls starts to turn into men and women. It is a crucial time for both genders. In this writing I will only apply on two genders – male and female, even though we know more. This period of time was also full of examples of sexual harassment between fellow classmates. Boys were chasing girls and were touching them without their consent. This was everyday experience that went by without any visible consequences. If anyone complained to the authority, it was explained as normal. I even asked my mother a while ago if I said anything about what was happening or if they were bringing up this issue on the parents meeting. I didn’t and they didn’t. I also asked my female and male friends what they think about it now. Responses were very similar but based on the gender. My female friends were disgusted by it and were starting to share their stories and their view on the problem back then and now. We figured that we, ourselves, didn’t do much about it when this was happening, I don’t think we even took it as seriously as we should. I remember hitting a boy back after he touched me and he hit me back so hard I didn’t consider to answer like this ever again. Then, there were my male friends I was discussing my topic with. They were making a bit of fun out of me at first, calling me feminist but then we discussed the problem of sexual harassment from their point of view. I got very interesting responses which did surprise me. It was not them feeling sorry for what they were doing, it was more like blaming it on young girls for dressing the way they did and for wanting it anyway. It was also one comment about how they couldn’t handle themselves. They saw growing breasts and they just had to touch them and gosh, internet and porn sites were not available back then. I really wonder if this changes much.
The topic I chose for my bachelor thesis is Reproduction of sexism – example of intergenerational sexual harassment in primary school. From the early age women are being put in their place, and this is one way of doing it. I believe there is no women that was not somehow sexually harassed. One more interesting point I saw in this playful sexual harassment in primary school is how, for the girl, it was lose – lose situation. It was bad if you were part of it and it was also bad if you were not. But in the end, boys were the one choosing in which category you belong. When I came up with the topic, I also got a comment, well, at least you know you are a good one. I guess I should be thankful for that.
My thesis topic seems very light and not important for most people. It is hard to understand that seemingly playful sexual harassment could be anything more than it is – but it is. It is so much more and it is a very effective way reproducing sexism. With only this, girls are taught who has the power. Even the power of their own body. We are being objectified and we are being silenced.
Remember how I said I never called myself a feminist. Now I do. Also my male friend thinks it’s funny to call me like that. But it is fine by me, since we are discussing this issue, I am at least raising awareness. They don’t call themselves feminist, even though they believe in gender equality. Feminism has become an ugly word nobody wants identify with. What we forget is that this was a strong movement that got women where we are now. It is very easy to forget that women were not considered as equal in public space not that very long ago. There have been lots of sacrifices of women who fought for equality we have today here, in western society. But surprise, surprise, as I said feminism has become an ugly word. Why? Because let’s stop that madness of gender equality. Be a lady for god sake.
There is a huge difference between not wanting to be something and being socialised into not wanting something. Women were kept out of public space for most of the history and even now, women do not go easily into, let’s say, politics. I remember one article about, how pictures of decision making events, would look like if men would be photoshopped out of it. What do you think, how many people would be left on the picture? Very few, the room ends up to be almost empty.
Population of the world is pretty much equal – fifty fifty of each gender, but there is only half of the population making decisions for everybody. This doesn’t seem right. I think the world would be much different if it would be led by men and women equally, because we do have our differences. Tough, none of those differences are bad, they just are different. I can give you very practical experience on this. Right now I am part of the project Women of the Resistance and my part of the job is to have workshops with high school students. Above other things, we are discussing about the resistance and what would they, high school students, resist against/for today. They are working in the groups and usually they create groups based of gender. So we have a group of boys and a group of girls discussing about one topic. If I compare all of the groups I had and not even from the same school, the results were that boys usually raised awareness about different topic than girls. This exactly is my point, they both raised questions about important but different topic and they were both right. With excluding women from decision making process we are basically making it worse for all of us, because we don’t see the whole picture. We are only solving half of the problems.
I still consider myself very lucky being born at this time in this place and this space even as a woman – thanks to the women who fought for women’s rights. I can speak up about this issue and I can fight for gender equality. We are not there yet and this issue is very important. World needs women’s voice too.
Author: Špela Vučajnk
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